Saturday, July 8, 2017

New information raises even more questions about collision of USS Fitzgerald with cargo ship

The captain of the cargo ship ACK Crystal, Ronald Advincula, said his ship had signaled with flashing lights to warn the USS Fitzgerald when it suddenly changed course to cross its path.

The Fitzgerald failed to respond to the warnings or take any evasive actions according to the captain's report. The collision took place in the early hours of June 17 south of Tokyo Bay off the Japanese coast. The weather was clear.
The crash killed seven sailors who were in their living quarters at the time of the collision. Apparently one sailor saved numerous others before he himself lost his life after an area had to be closed off to avoid the ship sinking.
Captain Advincula's report was submitted to the Daininchi Investment Corp. that owns the ship. He said when his ships warnings were ignored he steered hard to starboard but hit the Fitzgerald 10 minutes later at 1:30 AM. A Navy Times report notes that the time of the collision had been initially placed by the Navy at 2:20 AM local time. The US Navy has not commented on the new report. The Japanese Coast Guard also placed the time at 1:30 AM after interviewing the Crystal crew members.
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The vessel-tracking service Marine Traffic tracking the Crystal's route showed that it made a sudden turn as if attempting to avoid something around 1:30 AM. It then continued eastward until making a U turn and returning to the collision-area around 2:30 AM. There are several US, Japanese, and even Philippine investigations into the crash. The cargo ship is Philippine-flagged. There is still no explanation how the huge cargo ship got so close as to collide with the destroyer. The destroyer is equipped with very advanced systems to help protect it and there should have been observers on deck and also on the bridge who would have seen the oncoming cargo ship, as was described in a recent Digital Journal article. There were many speculative conspiracy theories after the crash. Some of the reasons for the speculations are discussed in this blog article but it was written before the testimony of the ACK Crystal's captain.
Lawrence Brennan , a retired Navy Captain who now teaches admiralty law at Fordham University said: “It’s virtually unprecedented. For two large ships, both operated by world-class shipping companies, to be in waters where they should expect traffic and not see each other, boggles the imagination." I suppose the US navy could be called a world-class shipping company!
The statement of Captain Advincula shows that his ship was not on automatic pilot when the collision occurred with no one awake to observe what was going to happen. Since the Crystal did not stop but went on eastward for some time afterward many concluded that it had simply been on auto-pilot. I had always wondered how the whole crew had simply slept through the crash and so the ship just carried on. It was nearly an hour before the Crystal reported the crash and returned to the collision site after making a U-half an hour after the crash. In his statement the captain claims there was "confusion" on the ship's bridge but that the ship turned around after continuing for 6 nautical miles. This explains nothing. How can one be confused when you have just had a disastrous collision with a destroyer that caused huge damage to it? It seems a clear case of deliberately leaving the scene of an accident and not reporting it until later and then returning to the scene.
There are six separate investigations into the crash. However, in another recent development the US has decided not to leave the Fitzgerald in the Japanese port, Yokosuka naval base, where it is now. It is going to return to the US for repairs. Once the warship leaves, the Japanese Coast Guard will be unable to assess the damage. The US says that it will continue to cooperate with the Japanese in sharing information including accounts of the crew members. This makes it sound as if only the US authorities will interview the crew members. The US will share whatever they choose to share about the crew's testimony. The Fitzgerald is so badly damaged it may have to be towed to the United States. The damage will need to be assessed first at a dock at the base. The cargo ship is run by major Japanese shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K. We should know soon more about why the Fitzgerald did not see the cargo ship at least not in time to take any evasive action it would seem.
The Coast Guard is pursuing a charge of professional negligence according to the Japan Times. Presumably this is against Captain Advincula. The Fitzgerald had been sailing in the area to monitor North Korea's ballistic missiles. Yet it cannot monitor a huge cargo ship as it steams towards it. The appended video explains exactly nothing of course but it shows everyone pulling together to patriotic-sounding background music to help out the Fitzgerald crew.

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